Britain's Tories offer key concession to woo Lib Dems
Britain's Conservatives Monday offered a major concession to the Liberal Democrats Monday in a bid to seal a power-sharing deal, following four days of deadlock since a general election.
Tory negotiator William Hague said his party was prepared to offer a referendum on electoral reform, a key demand of the Liberal Democrats, led by Nick Clegg, who are now kingmakers after no party secured a clear majority.
The proposal brings negotiations between the Conservatives and Lib Dems to a crunch point but may not be enough to satisfy Liberal Democrats.
"In the interests of trying to create a stable, secure government, we will go the extra mile and we will offer to the Lib Dems in a coalition government the holding of a referendum on the Alternative Voting system," Hague said.
"That's the choice that they will now have to make."
The offer came shortly after Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced his Labour party was opening formal talks with the Lib Dems on a power-sharing deal, and that he will step down in order to facilitate those talks.
Previously, the Lib Dems had only been holding formal talks with the Conservatives. Clegg had made it clear that he would not strike a power-sharing deal with Labour if Brown remained the party's leader.
The Tory move will be seen as a bid to seize back the initiative in negotiations with the Lib Dems after Labour's bombshell.
But the referendum offer may not go far enough for many Lib Dems.
The Conservatives want a vote on the Alternative Vote electoral system which is seen as less radical than the Single Transferable Vote system which the Lib Dems called for in their manifesto.
© 2010 AFP